August 30, 2001, Inquirer, Police top brass cry foul over 'Rosebud' testimony, by Carlito Pablo, Martin Marfil and Jhunnex Napallacan,
Posted:11:40 PM (Manila Time)
ALTHOUGH many of her allegations were not new, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Leandro Mendoza and other officers Thursday cried foul over the claim of former narcotics agent Mary Ong, alias "Rosebud", that the PNP national headquarters was the center of the country's illegal drug trade.
"For Ms Ong to accuse the PNP of being behind the trafficking of illegal drugs . . . is a sweeping indictment of the entire 115,000-strong national police," the police general said in a statement.
"If at all Ms Mary Ong has the evidence to substantiate her charges against some PNP personnel, by all means she must name and pinpoint specific responsibility rather than destroy the reputation of the entire organization through indiscriminate and generalized accusations," he said.
Mendoza nonetheless said he had instructed the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management to investigate the allegations Ong made at a Senate hearing into allegations that former national police chief and now senator Panfilo Lacson was involved in drug trafficking and other crimes.
Ong, a former informant and Chinese-language translator of the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized-Crime Task Force, told senators Wednesday that in 1998 she participated in an "Oplan Athena" project that aimed to crack into Hong Kong Triad drug trade. She alleged that the project turned into a lucrative business for senior police officials.
She said the Triad shipped in thousands of kilos of illegal drugs, which police officials sold to suspected Chinese drug lords detained at Camp Crame. She also said that during her stint as an undercover agent, the police were responsible for a drug trade worth 96 billion pesos a year.
She said 24 billion pesos went back to the Hong Kong Triad and the remaining 72 billion pesos went to police officials involved.
Ong implicated, among others, former PNP Narcotics Group head Reynaldo Acop, police superintendent Francisco Villaroman and superintendent John Campos, Ong's former live-in partner—all of whom have since denied her accusations.
Mendoza said Ong's "very sweeping accusation undermines the entire national police institution and sets back whatever gains we have achieved so far in rebuilding a publicly acceptable image and reputation."
Two other senior officials voiced their objections. Avelino Razon, police director for Central Visayas, said that he found Ong's allegations unbelievable and that Ong should substantiate her charges because she had indicted the entire anti-Narcotics Command. Vicente Loot, chief of the Regional Anti-Narcotics Group in Central Visayas, said Ong's allegations would demoralize his men in their campaign against illegal drugs.
In Malacañang, presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao told reporters: "The President has full confidence in the overall integrity and professionalism of the PNP."
"We're not saying that that the entire PNP organization has been cleared of its scalawags," he said, "but the President is confident that the major reforms, the major changes in leadership in different directorates have already been achieved."
He added: "We would like to clarify. . . (that) it’s not the existing PNP organization that Mary Ong is accusing. The organization she was accusing was the PNP under a previous leadership."
"Mendoza has been quite efficient in gradually raising the professional standards of the PNP," Tiglao further said.
But militant groups again urged government authorities to immediately file criminal charges against Senator Lacson and place him behind bars.
The fisherfolk group Pamalakaya said police officials implicated in the alleged multibillion-peso drug trading should also be charged.
The leftwing labor movement Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) made a similar call, while urging the Senate to widen the scope of its investigation to include the whole Philippine National Police and look into the extent of criminal activities within the police hierarchy.
The opposition party Partido ng Masang Pilipino, founded by former president Joseph Estrada, said the witnesses presented against Senator Lacson were "dubious characters" engaged in a smear campaign against members of the opposition.
But KMU chair and now Representative Crispin Beltran lambasted Lacson and his allies for trying to discredit Ong. He said it was normal that witnesses against Lacson were his former allies, subordinates or people within his "inner circle" who were, to one degree or another, exposed to criminal activities.
Beltran belittled Lacson's arguments that the witnesses against him were all facing charges of estafa. "He's trying to show that their word cannot be trusted," he said. "But between a person whose checks bounce, and a person who's being accused of money-laundering, drug-trafficking, wire-tapping--not to mention countless kidnappings and multiple murder—whose word can you trust more?"
"The Senate should . . . pay heed to the adage that where there’s smoke, there's fire. In this case, there's a lot of smoke, and it's a bonfire that's raging," he said.
Beltran added that Ong "has documents and other physical evidence to prove it. Ong's allegations against Lacson and his henchmen have been consistent, and this adds credibility to her story." With a report from Andrea Trinidad-Echavez